Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua;
Penguin Books: New York, 2011; $16
Sophia and Louisa Chua are perfect kids. They get straight A’s and are the best at everything. Sophia played piano at Carnegie Hall when she was fourteen; Louisa was accepted as a student of the world-famous violinist Naoko Tanaka. This sounds incredible, right? Meet Amy Chua: Yale Law professor and “Tiger Mother.” She forces her daughters to practice their instruments for hours a day and doesn’t let them be anything except top students. They can’t have play dates or sleepovers, play computer games or watch TV, or choose their own activities.
The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is the story of how Chua raised her daughters. She is Chinese and says that Asians stereotypically have very strict parenting habits that result in high-achieving children. They force their kids to be perfect or suffer the consequences. “Western” parents care about their children’s self-esteem and worry about their child psychologically. Asian parents assume their child can handle it and dish out the criticism. I’m not trying to be racist; this is shown in various studies and in this book. I know kids whose parents really pressure them and sometimes the results aren’t pretty.
This book really struck a chord with me because, well, I’m a kid. I’m the same age as Chua’s daughters were for most of the book. I think I offer a different perspective than most people who read this book because I can read about this type of parenting and wonder how I would respond to it. In my opinion, Chua had the basics right, but went too far. I think it’s important for parents to have high expectations for their kids; it shows that they’re confident enough in their child to think they can achieve it. At least for me, I get self-esteem by seeing that I am competent and good at things, not because people tell me that I am. But Chua screams at her daughters and threatens them if they don’t keep practicing their instruments. I play piano and clarinet, and I know practicing is really important. But I wouldn’t want to practice for four or five or six hours a day like Chua makes her daughters. I don’t think threatening kids is the right way to get them to do things. Her daughter Louisa feels a growing resentment towards Chua after years of forced practices and arguments. It ends with an awful public shouting match when Louisa is thirteen. She screams “I HATE YOU” at her mother and smashes glasses in the restaurant. Of course, teenagers are dramatic and whatever, but that was serious.
Sophia and Louisa’s talent and success are incredible, but is it worth the high price? This was a really thought-provoking book for me. It’s been a controversial subject all over the media, but I think kids should get an opinion, too. The book is written incredibly. It opened a whole new world for me—the parent’s world. For once, I experienced the frustration that comes when your kid doesn’t cooperate; I felt the chills parents get when they are unbearably proud of their child. The story is very suspenseful and draws you right in. It was like a soap opera—I had to find out what happened. I even told my mom I was cleaning my room just so I could finish it. Sorry, Mom. In raising her daughters, Amy Chua learns that sometimes you just have to let go and that parents don’t always know best. I highly recommend this book to anyone who just wants a great read.